Editorial: War in Iraq – Blair’s Not Off The Hook

THE FOREIGN Affairs Select Committee spent four weeks investigating the reasons Blair gave for taking Britain into a war against Iraq. The title of their proceedings – ‘The decision to go to war against Iraq’ was hardly dealt with.

The conclusion of the report is that “the jury is still out” on the accuracy of the September dossier and concludes “that continuing disquiet and unease about the claims made in the September dossier are unlikely to be dispelled unless more evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programme comes to light.”

As expected, this ineffectual committee had neither the power nor the will to expose Blair’s lies about WMDs. The report itself was critical of aspects of the two dossiers that Blair presented as justification for going to war, while not really undermining the government.

Many of the key conclusions in the report were only determined by the chair’s casting vote because of split voting.

Their report concentrated on the validity of key claims in the two dossiers produced to justify war; whether these documents had been ‘sexed-up’ to exaggerate or lie about Saddam’s threat and if spin doctor Alistair Campbell was responsible for this.

Blair’s critical item of justification for going to war was his assertion, which he claimed was based on intelligence, that Saddam could launch WMDs within 45 minutes. The Committee found that this claim had been given too much prominence because the only evidence was from an uncorroborated single source. However, the report cleared Campbell of being the person who wrote this claim into the dossier but only after a split vote with the Labour chair having to use his vote.

We are still none the wiser as to who did insert this claim.

The committee itself had few powers, only heard evidence for six days and were refused access to intelligence material. They could not hear evidence from Blair, the intelligence services or US officials. It was made up of Labour and Tory MPs who on certain issues voted along party lines.

A genuine inquiry is needed, made up of workers’ and community representatives with access to all intelligence material and the right to question all those involved in the decision to go to war.

Limited intelligence

The inquiry itself was overshadowed by accusations from Campbell that the BBC claimed the first dossier was ‘sexed up’ and certain material included that the intelligence services were not happy with. The fact that the BBC has not retracted their claims reveals the friction between different wings of the establishment.

The decision to go to war against Iraq had been decided months and probably years before for oil and US strategic interests. Bush and Blair had to convince doubting sections of their governments as well as the growing anti-war movement of the need for war. Because the war was not in response to any aggressive action from Iraq they used intelligence data to try to prove that Saddam was not just a potential but imminent threat to other countries.

With the lack of any WMDs found in Iraq so far and the numerous inadequacies of the intelligence data, Blair’s justification for war is losing credibility.

Even this committee admits that the intelligence data was weak. The Ministry of Defence have just issued their first report into the Iraq war in which they do not support Blair’s claim that Saddam was ready to use WMDs within 45 minutes. They admit that the intelligence data available was limited.

It has been left to a charity to conduct a survey to find out just how many civilians were killed during the war in Iraq. The figure so far is 2,652 which is expected to reach 4,000 on completion. Some estimates put it as high as 7,000.

Recent opinion polls show increasing distrust in Blair and a steady drop in those who think it was right to go to war against Iraq (see article below). The lack of WMDs in Iraq, the accusations of Blair lying to take Britain into war and the continuing deaths of British soldiers and Iraqi people will only increase anger towards Blair and his government.